Sidewalk of the Week: 42nd Avenue and 38th Street

The first time you go to Minneapolis's Riverview Theater it's quite special. It's the feeling of winning the lottery, or finding a needle in a haystack. It's that feeling of something being very, very much against the odds.

What, in fact, are the odds that a perfectly preserved 1940s single-screen neighborhood movie theater would have survived this long in the age of multiplexes? What are the odds that it would not only be surviving, but thriving? What are the odds of actually having real butter on your movie popcorn in this the age of artifice? What are the odds of paying $3 to see a movie in the year 2010? And what are the odds that all this theatrical wonderment would be found, not in the heart of Uptown, but on this rather innocuous and in every-other-way anonymous sidewalk in midst of the quiet Longfellow neighborhood?

Well, if I was a betting man, I'd have bet against the Riverview a long time ago. But somehow, despite everything, this building has managed to stay intact and strong this long, to be, along with Nye's, some of the only smoking gun proof of what happens when you mix interior decorating and LSD.

[The Mother Earth Garden store has a wonderful interface with the sidewalk, opening up and inviting passers by to enter its mystic wonder.]

I think of the chain of events that must have led to this awe-inspiring corner: the decision to remodel back in 1956, all the turns and twists of running a highly competitive business, surviving the low-rent era, surviving repeated showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show,
business models and start a indoor roller rink catering to Jr. High dances and derby dates. That moment when someone somewhere started to host neighborhood events at the theater. Think of all the moments when this theater could have disappeared. And yet, somehow it didn't.

Finally, all that cautious optimism paid off. Today, the Riverview theater veritably defines its surroundings. The Riverview shows 2 or 3 films a day, and more on weekends. It hosts screenings of just about every locally-produced film. Public meetings take place, and the whole neighborhood comes out and gathers there. Anyone with a house anywhere nearby gives directions by referring to the Riverview. The theater has spawned a pleasant (and very child friendly) coffee shop and winebar that shares its name. (All this is ironic, perhaps, because one can not, in no way, actually view the river from this streetcorner.) The cubic digital-esque marquee lights up the street every night. Midnight movies are a world unto themselves.

[The Riverview wine bar and coffee shop has a wonderful, wide, and inviting sidewalk.]

Today, the corner bustles, albeit in a very subdued and minimalist kind of way. The life of the street, and the neighborhood owes its soul to history's random chances, the luck of the draw, long years of struggle. Think of all the other local theaters that once sat in their neighborhoods like a raisin in a cookie. They are all gone, but the Riverview remains. If you ever find yourself walking East on 38th Street or South on 42nd Avenue, keep your eyes peeled. It's kind of like winning the lottery.

[The Riverview Theater's history ripples into the future like waves in a pond.]

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Great choice for Sidewalk of the Week :-D. My girlfriend and I love going to the Riverview for its cheap tickets of movies that we missed at the multiplex or didn't want to pay $20+ for, but most of all we love their movie theater popcorn that has the perfect blend of salt and buttery goodness.
We have yet to step foot into the coffee shop/wine bar across the street because we haven't heard any reviews or sought them out. Might be worth a visit the next time we are down in that area.